Sunday, 12 December 2010

A Long and Winding Road Taken and One Still to Travel

Last week was characterised by performance, a brief encounter with a youthful experience and the challenge of intellectual debate. Monday was a day full of meetings, some of which were difficult and had outcomes that some would not have wanted to hear.

The day ended with an open meeting at which, colleagues and external partners could attend to hear some wonderful examples of research and innovation from across the University being presented. Despite the cold, it was -6 outside, there were over 60 people in attendance. The only down side to the event (at least for me) was the showing, yet again, of the University Research DVD – I still find it slightly disconcerting to see a 15 foot high projection of myself describing the research we do.  

Tuesday started with yet more meetings and then I had the chance to present a report on the outcomes of the recent REF Impact Pilots to the Units of Assessment Advisors. I think the sheer amount of work required to get us prepared came as a surprise to many of the participants. It was however, a very productive meeting and raised a number of issues that we will have to come back to. At lunch time, I had my last Editorial meeting with my Nurse Education in Practice colleagues. After four years of involvement on the editorial board, I am leaving the Board. I will retain an International Advisor role, so will still be able to influence the direction of what is one of the best international nurse education journals. Thanks Karen for the opportunity.

The day ended with the latest in the Professorial College presentations. This sessions talk was given by Sharon Rushton on Place, Text and Memory. Sharon made a superb bid for having this work recognised as the 7th University wide theme. The fact that she mentioned our School in her presentation was very generous and perhaps reflects where the relationship between our respective Schools has got to. I think a great future of productive collaboration is assured.

Wednesday started with a meeting with the Schools Students Union Sabbatical Officer Caroline – always a pleasure, this meeting was particular good – Caroline has such a refreshingly grounded view of the world – we did however talk about the march planned for that afternoon in opposition to the proposed increase in annual students fees. Unlike the demonstrations in London, the march in Manchester was trouble free.

Our celebration of five years of service user and carer involvement in the work of the School followed. It was great, a real family celebration, and thanks to  Martin (VC) and Neil (NHS North  West) for coming and supporting our work.

Senate followed, and the VC mentioned the celebration in his verbal report. It was some welcome recognition of the work many colleagues have put into developing these relationships over such a long period of time. I spent the remaining few hours with my mentor and by 22.30 on Wednesday I had clocked up 40 hours work (and that was just the time spent being at the University).

Thursday was spent catching up on my writing, and despite the email interference, it was still possible to get some work done. A draft of a paper with Mikko et al revised and sent off, a 3rd draft paper with Sue and Joanne, revised and prepared, ready to send off to the publishers, which looked at the ethics of mental health nursing, and a quick look at a draft paper with colleagues from Ireland, Richard and Liam.
Friday was our School Development day. The first hour was School Congress. We decided that on this occasion we adopt a Pecha Kucha approach to allowing people to get their points across. Pecha Kucha (Japanese for chit chat) is a form of communication that allows people 20 power point slides, which get shown for no more than 20 seconds each (a total presentation of 6 minutes 20 seconds) and which uses images as the preferred way of communicating. We had six tremendous presentations, (although we might need to work on the timing). The ‘serious’ part of the day was looking at the impact of the recent changes to Equality Legislation on the activities of the School. Many thanks to Lis who led on our examination of the issues involved and presented a very understandable analysis of the main changes to the law.

However, in the afternoon, as we started to look at the issues in detail, and  the discussion unfolded, it seemed to me that some of thinking that may have so often held us back as a profession  is still there, despite much rhetoric to the contrary.  The catalyst for our discussion were the changes we need to make in moving away from being a recruiting School to a selecting School. We anticpate having some 6000 applications this year and that is after raising the entry requirements. In the ensuing conversations it was still possible to hear the somewhat romantic notion of a nurse as an Angel being defended. This notion was was presented in terms of widening particpaton, and arguements that for some people, not having good academic qualifications wouldn't prevent them from being a good nurse.  The latter is possibly true, but such  notions are the demons that plague our profession. Who can forget Gordon Brown, the former UK Prime Minister addressing the RCN shortly after the death of his daughter by thanking the nursing profession for the help they received as a family:

‘So we feel like parents who have been in the presence of angels dressed in nurses' uniforms, performing the most amazing works of mercy and care, and I will never forget seeing in real time every minute of the day that idea of service and selflessness. I am here with Sarah to say not just thank you from our family, but thank you from millions upon millions of families’.

I had to leave the School Development Day early than I had anticipated – and I have since heard the discussion was very good - but later on as I reflected on what I heard, I was reminded of the story of Eva O, (of metallic death rock and punk music fame) who in the middle of her career, and as a result of her somewhat complicated relationship difficulties, wanted to write a dark concept album about angels. During this time, Eva began searching the literature on this subject. Her album was initially entitled Angels Fall for a Demon's Kiss. At first she read only the literature that approached the subject from a new age point of view and finding this one dimensional view limiting, Eva decided to look for more traditional sources and incredibly read Billy Graham’s book entitled Angels. After reading the book, Eva rewrote the album, subsequently entitling it Demons Fall for an Angel's Kiss a somewhat subtle but important shift in perception.

In a crowded and busy world it is easy to see how we can convince ourselves that taking the easy path to change is the right course of action, even if this means not changing.  There is still a long way to go in developing our profession, and I believe we need to constantly find ways of addressing the issues that hold back this development - but at times this can be a hard and wearying task. At the end of a busy week, I briefly experienced that sense of weariness. As I was just about to leave for the weekend, I stood for a moment in quiet contemplation in my darkened office, and wondered if I (and my demons) were in danger of falling for an Angels kiss. However, as I sit and write this blog, the new week beckons. Like last week, it will be full of many opportunities to take things forward and perhaps in so doing, will enable some of those demons to be banished!